Indians players and staff have been adamant about remaining diligent with COVID-19 protocols, trying to keep a bubble-like atmosphere on the road and limiting their public exposure at home. On Sunday, the team learned what can happen if they bend the rules.
“I’ll keep the details of our conversation private,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “But I had multiple conversations with Zach today and we talked through what happened. Obviously reinforced the importance for everybody that we all take the protocols seriously and adhere to them because our decisions and our behaviors not only affect ourselves, but all of our teammates, and I think Zach understands that."
The Indians released a statement from Plesac after the team's extra-innings win in Sunday’s series finale at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the entire Cleveland organization and all of our fans for my actions Saturday evening. I realize I made a poor choice to leave the hotel, which broke protocols and could have endangered other people. I understand that in these times of uncertainty, I need to be more vigilant and responsible and I am determined to earn my teammates’ forgiveness and get back to work.”
The Tribe arranged a car service to drive Plesac back to Cleveland on Sunday. He did not come in contact with any of his teammates after he returned to the hotel on Saturday night, and he will self-quarantine for at least 72 hours while also undergoing daily testing.
“I think, right now, our focus was ensuring the health and safety of all of our teammates and staff and players, and that necessitated Zach being separate from the team,” Antonetti said. “At this point, we’ll take a little bit of time and then assess what the appropriate next steps may be.”
The Indians just wrapped up a stretch of 17 games in 17 days to start the regular season. Now, with three days off over the next two weeks, the team doesn’t necessarily need a fifth starter until Aug. 22.
“We were at a point in time when we were contemplating a series of roster moves anyway,” Antonetti said. “We had deliberated about whether or not Zach would go to the bullpen, whether or not it would be best to option him to continue to keep him stretched out so he would be prepared to make that start, so we have a lot of things we need to work through to figure out what the next set of moves might be.”
Antonetti opted against sharing how the team was informed of Plesac’s decision to go out with friends on Saturday night, but Antonetti did say the rest of Plesac's teammates got together Sunday morning to have a meeting about the situation.
“We take the protocols very seriously,” Antonetti said. “We’ve all banded together and talked about the importance of watching out for one another and making sure that we did our best to minimize risk. And Zach’s behavior, unfortunately, wasn’t consistent with that. So our players spent some time talking through their thoughts and feelings, and that’s feedback we’ll get here over the next day or two and factor that into what our next steps might be.”
“We love Zach,” starter Shane Bieber said. “We support him. But he screwed up. We’re gonna handle this in-house. I think what we kind of talked about as a team is we need to focus on one thing at a time, and that was the game. And so I’m proud of the guys for being able to handle one thing at a time and going out there and getting the win. But like I said, we’re gonna handle this in-house and we’re going to see where it goes from here.”